Dan Hust | Democrat
AT HIS SENTENCING on Tuesday, Joe Naughton apologized for shooting Lori Schubeler in the bar of his Western Hotel Restaurant last April. Defense attorney Jackie Ricciani stands next to him..
Jail time in Western Hotel shooting
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Despite his attorney’s efforts to keep his punishment at five years’ probation, Callicoon businessman Joe Naughton will be reporting to the Sullivan County Jail on Monday to begin serving two concurrent six-month sentences.
That’s what District Attorney Steve Lungen and Callicoon resident Jim Heisel were arguing for during Tuesday’s sentencing of Naughton.
Naughton pled guilty earlier this year to criminally negligent homicide, a felony, and criminal possession of a firearm, a misdemeanor, and admitted that he had accidentally shot and killed his employee and Heisel’s girlfriend, Lori Schubeler, on April 13 of last year.
According to statements made Tuesday in front of Sullivan County Court Judge Burton Ledina, Schubeler had been leaning on the bar at Naughton’s Western Hotel in the wee hours of the morning near the end of her shift as a waitress.
A bar patron who was a championship shooter began chatting with Naughton as Schubeler listened, and Naughton showed off his collection of antique and personal firearms.
But while handling an unregistered, semi-automatic, .25-caliber handgun, Naughton accidentally discharged it. The bullet hit Schubeler in the chest, quickly killing her.
On Tuesday, Lungen observed that Naughton, who admitted alcohol had impaired his judgment, was getting off easy, having struck a plea deal whereby a charge of manslaughter was dropped. Lungen claimed that had it gone to trial, he would have succeeded in convincing a jury to send Naughton to state prison for at least 1-3 years. (Schubeler’s family, however, was reportedly satisfied with the outcome in light of the friendship she had with the Naughton family.)
Lungen also intimated that Naughton was not as remorseful as he should be, saying the Sheriff’s Office had informed him that Naughton fell asleep in the squad car while being taken in for questioning that fateful morning.
And Lungen criticized Naughton for not immediately seeking alcohol abuse counseling, citing a court-mandated counseling session that concluded the bar owner did not know how much was “too much.”
“The truth is, your honor, the defendant doesn’t get it,” Lungen told Ledina.
Naughton’s attorney, Jacqueline Ricciani, vigorously argued that Naughton has indeed “gotten it” and that he faces agonizing memories every day of the harm he wrought.
“He is responsible for the loss of a dear friend,” she told the judge. “... She practically died in his arms.”
Ricciani said Naughton was not asleep in the sheriff’s car but was instead tilting his head back and closing his eyes “to block it out.”
She confirmed that Naughton twice refused a Breathalyzer test, but she said he has not had a drink since and would start a counseling program this week.
She painted a picture of a community-minded father and grandfather who was known for helping people and considered Schubeler part of his family.
“Joe Naughton is known as an individual of tremendous generosity,” Ricciani pointed out, noting the 65-year-old gave Schubeler a job “so she could keep her dignity and be productive.”
“Lori was like another daughter to Joe,” she explained. “There was a fondness.… To think he has no remorse is absolutely false.”
In light of these facts, his heart condition and the lack of being a flight risk or danger to society, Ricciani urged the judge to not sentence Naughton to incarceration.
“... Joe Naughton’s punishment, your honor, is that he is haunted by this incident,” she concluded, “... and I would submit to you that that is justice.”
Heisel, however, felt justice could only be served by jail time. Though saying he does not want revenge, Heisel felt the life of the accomplished actress and his partner of 18 years should matter and that Naughton’s crime can be likened to that of a drunk driver’s.
“It’s all so senseless,” he said, his face wooden.
Despite that, he wished Naughton and his family long and happy lives.
Finally, it was Naughton’s turn to speak.
“I’m deeply sorry for her death,” he told Judge Ledina, though his comments seemed as much directed towards Heisel and Schubeler’s friends and family in the small audience. “... I tried to help her, and in the end I only caused her hurt.”
Naughton apologized to both her and his friends and family.
“If I could take back those seconds, I would,” he said. “Sadly, I cannot.… My mind is tortured.”
After a short recess, Ledina returned to the courtroom to impose the maximum sentence on Naughton: two six-month county jail terms, one for each conviction, to be served at the same time.
Ricciani successfully asked the judge to delay Naughton’s voluntary surrender to jail authorities from Friday till Monday, so that he can log one more weekend working in the hotel/restaurant/liquor store he shares with his wife and one other employee.